After mentioning that networking agility can be delivered via automation tools like Puppet and Chef, I wanted to dive into this topic further. There is a relatively recent trend for networking vendors (i.e., Arista, Cisco, Juniper and others) to support these tools in their switches, although user adoption is low. So without further ado, here is a Guest Blog on Network Automation from Ronni Colville
About 5 years ago if anyone had asked me if Open Source Software (OSS) tools for automation were relevant for IT administrators, I’d have said not so much. But over the last several years, Open Source automation vendors have become center stage. The most topical vendors to date are Chef and Puppet Labs (alpha order) but the one that started it was CFengine, and the newcomer is SaltStack. There are and will continue to be future derivatives of these tools but here’s what’s become so cool about open source automation/Config tools.
These tools provide a programmatic framework for building content (each having their own framework ‘language’) to automate your infrastructure. The focus was predominantly on servers (specifically unix, linux but more recently Windows) but of course there are plenty of other use cases for provisioning binaries, etc. and in the future…. Networking devices!
If you’re familiar with DevOps, you may have heard these vendors mentioned in context of one of the DevOps tenants: ‘Infrastructure as code’. What is that? It’s exactly what it sounds like. Instead of scripting, or manually using a CLI, these vendors’ frameworks enable you to ‘codify’ automation (often configuration oriented) in a repeatable fashion. This eliminates creating many ‘one time use’ scripts or working in CLI. These vendors offer Open Source tools with a community of content. But if you are not into Open Source – don’t fear…. They all offer commercial flavors of their tools also. For some that’s good – you get all the benefits and security of a commercial product, and the Open Source content to work from, and for others (often more ‘dev’ oriented) the OSS tools are more their thing.
I could go on and on about these vendors and tools (stay tuned I’m working on a note for later this year) – but until then know this: while they’re all in the same category, they aren’t all the same. Chef is often the favorite of the developer community while Puppet and the others are more often used by Sys Admins or IT administration folks. But just as I say this – some developer is grimacing saying – not so- I use Puppet and vice versa that an Ops person is rolling his/her eyes at me that Chef is in use….. so you have to evaluate which is more your thing –(skills-wise). We’ve published research on these vendors as well, including:
Cool Vendors in DevOps, 2012 (Ronni J. Colville | Jim Duggan | Cameron Haight) – Includes Puppet Labs, Opscode (Chef) and CFEengine
Cool Vendors in DevOps, 2013 (Analyst(s): Ronni J. Colville | Jonah Kowall | Colin Fletcher | Jim Duggan) – Includes SaltStack
Why is this cool for Networking? Well there are plenty of folks in Gartner that can step you through this but here’s my take –I’ve been at Gartner for almost 20yrs (I joined when I was 12!) but I’ve covered a variety of automation tools and I have noticed that many times there is a hesitancy in automating what you do for a number of reasons. One area in particular that seems to really hold-out for automation are Network admins. Desktop guys figured it out almost 2 decades ago, server guys about 1.5 decades ago (and many are still not there!) but many networking folks are still holding out. I’d say now is just about the time to get on board. With all the SDx noise (specifically SDN) there will be a whole new way for you to grow your skills and become center stage… all these clouds may make work-loads, or apps or IT services provision quickly but running them and scaling them will fall to the NETWORK!! Hint…. That’s you J
For those interested in more detail, check out this research:
Know the Application Release Automation Vendor Landscape to Shortlist the Best Vendors for Your Organization (Ronni J. Colville | Colin Fletcher)
Summary: The speed and agility of application releases are growing exponentially, and application release automation tools keep adding and refining their capabilities to keep up. DevOps, operations and development stakeholders should use these insights on the ARA market to quickly develop shortlists.
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